The 3 keys to IT sustainability: planet, people, and community

November 15, 20184 minute read

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Many organizations have avoided fully leaning into sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives for fear of depleting the budget, impeding productivity, and straining internal resources. But, as it turns out, sustainability practices can increase employee satisfaction, improve brand loyalty, and ultimately yield healthy returns.

According to its 2017 Sustainable Impact Report, HP Inc.’s sustainability was a key differentiator for over $700 million in new revenue.1 In other words, investing in IT sustainability can give your company a better competitive edge.

How can you feasibly place sustainability at the heart of your own practices? Here are several tips to help you foster sustainability, employment equity, and other corporate responsibility initiatives.

1. Protect the planet

You’ve probably heard about the importance of reducing your carbon footprint. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide, can slow the effects of climate change, which affects everything from food crops, air quality, and the availability of clean water to the overall health of the planet and everything on it.

As an IT leader, you can make purchase and process decisions that will shrink your organization’s carbon footprint. Here are two practices you can begin implementing immediately:

  • Turn off equipment after-hours. Leaving large appliances, lighting, and other equipment on when your workspace is unoccupied is not only an unnecessary expense, but it can also double energy consumption. Work with the facilities team to ensure nonessential systems are turned off after-hours and urge all employees to power off their workstations before leaving for the day.

  • Upgrade to environmentally responsible tech. Technology products represent some of the most significant challenges to organizations looking to reduce their carbon footprint. However, many tech companies are building more eco-friendly products. Selecting devices with Energy Star designations and recycling your old laptops, printers, and toner cartridges can help you minimize your footprint. It’s also worthwhile to look for vendors that prioritize sustainability when manufacturing their products.

2. Empower your people

Sustainability isn’t just about “going green.” You also need to prepare your organization to sustain itself well into the future and face any challenges that may come its way. In the world of tech, that means solving the talent gap. The solution? More diversity and workplace equality.

“When we’re surrounded by people with different experiences—whether that’s because of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or education—our brains do something incredible,” says Chatelle Lynch, chief human resources officer at McAfee. “Social diversity enhances creativity by encouraging us to uncover new information and perspectives, leading to better decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation.”

Here are two ways you can drive innovation by empowering your workforce:

  • Provide more opportunities to enhance skill sets. Investing in employee education is especially critical in the world of IT, where things change at lightning speed. By offering opportunities to grow skills on the job or utilizing a tuition reimbursement program, you can ensure employees from all backgrounds have opportunities for growth, increasing employee engagement and ensuring your team is well-schooled in the latest industry tools and best practices—which will serve your objective of IT sustainability.

  • Increase the number of women and minorities in leadership positions. Diversity and inclusion are crucial to continued success in the modern era. Millennials are the largest generation in the US labor force and also the most diverse in US history. If you want these diverse young workers to stick around, promote people from a variety of backgrounds. According to its Sustainable Impact Report, the HP board of directors is 40 percent women and 50 percent minorities. As a result, 85 percent of employees report they feel the organization values diversity. By advancing women and minorities to leadership, the organization has become more representative of the greater population and, in turn, a place where more people feel comfortable working.

By empowering diverse employees and working with sustainability minded businesses that champion diversity, you can usher in a brighter future for your organization and the industry as a whole.

3. Build a community

No organization can be sustainable without supporting the community in which it resides. From assisting with disaster preparedness, relief, and recovery to volunteering time and other resources to schools, parks, libraries, and local nonprofits, helping your community ensures your organization will continue to have space to thrive.

Plus, organizations that benefit their communities also build a better brand reputation—which can attract customers and top talent. Research shows that 83 percent of millennials would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues, according to a survey by Cone Communications.

Sustainability is not something you can achieve overnight. In fact, the practice of sustainability is never complete—it’s something your organization must commit to improving upon every year. But by using these tips, you can emerge as a leader in IT sustainability and workplace equality, and position your organization for continued success.

1. As of October 31, 2017.

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